Martin Kleppmann - Goodbye GPL

In this post I argue that we should move away from the GPL and related licenses (LGPL, AGPL), for reasons that have nothing to do with Stallman, but simply because I think they have failed to achieve their purpose, and they are more trouble than they are worth.

For all these reasons, I think it no longer makes sense to cling on to the GPL and copyleft. Let them go. Instead, I would encourage you to adopt a permissive license for your projects (e.g. MIT, BSD, Apache 2.0), and then focus your energies on the things that will really make a difference to software freedom:counteracting the monopolising effects of cloud software, developing sustainable business models that allow open source software to thrive, and pushing for regulation that prioritises the interests of software users over the interests of vendors.


I quoted basically first and last above, worth reading in its entirety.

For me, ā€œdevelop sustainable business modelsā€ is why I like Prosperity: I think that ā€œforcingā€ a discussion about supporting software by commercial entities is what it does, while providing permissive licensing to all other users.

Basically, I am cynical enough to think the broadly permissive licenses are not well used by commercial entities.

This part also:

The only real use for copyleft nowadays is by commercial software vendors (MongoDB, Elastic) who want to stop Amazon from providing their software as a service ā€“ which is fine, but itā€™s motivated purely by business concerns, not by software freedom.


I read this through, and disagree on very little. However, judging copyleft by the GPL or even the AGPL in 2020 is like judging open source by fifteen-year-old Linux kernels. FSF and RMS basically walked off the job after failing to get their way with GPLv3. They failed to play even the strong cards they already held in the ASP/SaaS/cloud era.

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Right. The issue being that Martin and others have not been exposed to emerging classes of licenses.

Pretty much my presentations over the past 2 years have been ā€œinteresting new licenses exist and are being usedā€ and ā€œyou should think about what you want / what issues licenses addressā€.

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I really appreciate you and everyone telling developers that they have new choices, and can come up with their own. Highly restrictive lines about which licenses exist, are good, or provide acceptable build a little cage around the minds of developers. A lot of this is self-serving propaganda in the guise of mentorship. The only way to counteract it is broadly, persistently, as a group.

That said, and arguing against interest for a moment, I have to concede that running across Parity or Round Robin in 2020 is hardly the same experience as coming across GPLv2 for the first time in the 1990s. A mass is certainly building, but I donā€™t think itā€™s critical yet.

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Another quote from the article:

My collaborators and I have previously argued for local-first software, which is a response to these problems with cloud software. Local-first software runs on your own computer, and stores its data on your local hard drive, while also retaining the convenience of cloud software, such as real-time collaboration and syncing your data across all of your devices. It is nice for local-first software to also be open source, but this is not necessary: 90% of its benefits apply equally to closed-source local-first software.

Makes sense and fortunately projects like fission are helping us in that direction.


ā€˜NCā€™, no matter how you enumerate it, always fails to grasp the actual complexities of the contemporary political economy, and probably the future economy and thus always feels anachronisticā€¦ whenever I see NC I see Victorian eccentricity, top hats and quills, I think NC is a business aesthetic, not the material preference it appears to be.

Same. For me though, it was because disagreeing with it only requires us to disagree with Kleppmanns subjective opinion on the GPL, which really canā€™t be disagreed with, since it amounts to his own tasteā€¦ there IS no arguing tasteā€¦ I cannot discern any real work being done there capable of constructing a counterpositionā€¦ but I suspect that may be the pointā€¦ Kleppmann is financed by a particularly unreliable arbite of political opinion ā€¦ Boeing. This amounts to an anti-fsf missileā€¦ just what you would expect, no?